San Jose requires COVID boosters for workers, visitors at city facilities
A masked couple walks by the San Jose Convention Center in March 2021. File photo.

    San Jose is now the largest city in the state to require its employees and visitors of events at city-owned venues to show proof of a COVID-19 booster shot.

    The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to impose a new mandate requiring city workers and visitors of city-owned facilities, such as the SAP Center and San Jose McEnery Convention Center, to get boosted or show proof of a negative test before entry. The new law goes into effect immediately, but facilities have until Feb. 4 to implement the rule.

    A person is eligible for a booster dose six months after finishing the two-shot vaccines or two months after the Johnson & Johnson one-dose shot.

    Mayor Sam Liccardo announced a plan for a booster mandate in late December, which also included a requirement for all city workers to roll up their sleeves to be boosted by the end of January. The city opted at a committee meeting last week to move the proposed booster mandate for all city employees into closed session to discuss with workers’ unions, with plans to vote on it later this month.

    The proposal comes as the omicron variant spreads in Santa Clara County.

    Over the holidays where many gathered and traveled to see loved ones, COVID once again engulfed the area. The number of daily cases skyrocketed, as the seven-day rolling average of new COVID infections in the county jumped from 657 on Dec. 24 to 3,391 as of Tuesday.

    “Certainly we want to avoid risks at locations where we have many people convening in large venues such as the (Center for the Performing Arts) or the SAP,” Liccardo said.

    Several residents called in to question the mandate, citing a high number of infections among the vaccinated and boosted populations. Liccardo spoke directly to their concerns.

    “Being boosted does not prevent you from getting COVID,” Liccardo said. “Obviously the great benefit for those individuals who are boosted is it dramatically reduces their likelihood of actually (being) hospitalized.”

    Councilmember David Cohen said the number of infections among vaccinated people is high because the majority of the population in Santa Clara County is vaccinated. As of Tuesday, 82.5% of all county residents are fully vaccinated.

    In the county, the hospitalization rate for unvaccinated residents is 38 per 100,000 people, while the rate for fully inoculated people is 1.7 per 100,000, Cohen said.

    “That’s a 30 times difference in hospitalization rate,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure we all understand the data because the data is what drives these decisions.”

    With this latest vaccine mandate approved, attention will now turn to requiring all city workers to get boosted as a condition of employment.The city’s police and fire unions vocally opposed the previous requirement for COVID vaccination enacted last year.

    Last year’s vaccination mandate for visitors to large city-owned facilities also faced pushback. A group of more than 100 unmasked protestors shut down a City Council meeting prior to the vote last August.

    As of Dec. 21, 95% of all San Jose workers are vaccinated, city officials said. Despite strong opposition to the vaccine mandate, the majority of police officers and firefighters complied with the requirement.

    In total, there are 353 city employees—out of 7,037 people—who are not fully vaccinated as of December. Roughly 81.5% of those have approved exemptions, or have exemptions currently under review. At least a dozen workers have faced discipline for failing to show proof of vaccination.

    Health care workers in the county are stressed and overworked with the pandemic entering its third year, Liccardo said.

    “They’re stretched to their limits,” Liccardo said. “We don’t want to burden that system anymore—we know what it looks like in other cities.”

    Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter. 

    Comment Policy (updated 11/1/2021): We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by administrators.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.